Sports

In the FCS Huddle: Next QB up

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 2015 season will be full of outstanding quarterbacks across the FCS.

Even the transfer of Eastern Washington star Vernon Adams Jr. to Oregon in early February does not negate the fact the class is deep ( http://tinyurl.com/q2tnkzw).

But it doesn't mean everybody is afforded the luxury of a veteran player returning at football's most important position. A number of teams are replacing standouts.

With Adams' departure for his senior season, the biggest losses are found in the Big Sky Conference, where, like Eastern Washington, Idaho State (Justin Arias), Montana (Jordan Johnson) and Sacramento State (Garrett Safron) are working on their replacements.

Some decisions on who's No. 1 won't be made until preseason camps in August, while others are becoming clearer in spring practices.

At Eastern Washington, Jordan West is expected to be the starter as a redshirt junior, having replaced Adams for four games last season, and going 3-1, when the two-time Walter Payton Award runner-up was sidelined with a broken foot. West moves well for his 6-foot-4, 220-pound size, and threw for eight touchdowns and only one interceptions in his four starts.

Arias shared All-Big Sky first-team honors with Adams last season, leading the FCS in passing yards and touchdown passes. Coach Mike Kramer says he won't name a starting quarterback until the end of August, but Arias' successor figures to be young, either redshirt freshman Tanner Gueller or redshirt sophomore James Delacensarie.

Montana will have a new rapid-fire offensive system under first-year coach Bob Stitt. Returning letterman Brady Gustafson has separated himself during spring practices from an original group of seven, which included Idaho transfer Chad Chalich.

Sacramento State also has a transfer in its mix. Kolney Cassel made one start as a redshirt freshman at SMU last season. But last year's backup with the Hornets, redshirt sophomore Daniel Kniffin, a Texan himself, while Cassel is from Yakima, Washington, impressed in light duty behind Safron.

The biggest loss in the nation's top FCS conference - the Missouri Valley - is at Indiana State with Mike Perish. He led the conference in passing yards and the Sycamores to their first playoff berth in 30 years. Coach Mike Sanford appears to have a replacement in junior college transfer Zach Kline, whose college career began at Cal.

The situation isn't as clear at Richmond, which lost standout Michael Strauss and his backup, Michael Rocco. Kyle Lauletta, who played in four games as a true freshman in 2013 and redshirted last season, and redshirt junior David Broadus, a running-style QB despite his 6-4, 227-pound size, are in a close competition during spring practices.

Fordham's Michael Nebrich, who won two straight Patriot League offensive player of the year awards, is graduating this spring and won't be using his final season of eligibility. Kevin Anderson, who transferred in from Marshall last year, is expected to become the starter.

Tennessee State has lost Michael German, its all-time leader in passing yardage, but redshirt junior Ronald Butler has made 12 career starts and earned All-Ohio Valley Conference second-team honors in 2013. Still, the Tigers coaches have liked what they've seen in redshirt freshman Oshay Ackerman-Carter, whose pocket style is more like German's.

Southeastern Louisiana has big shoes to fill in Bryan Bennett. D'Shaie Landor, a redshirt junior who was last year's backup after spending two years at Louisiana-Lafayette, is the heir apparent.

Also in the Southland Conference, Lamar has lost Caleb Berry, who finished second in the FCS in passing yards last year, as well as two potential returnees. Transfers Carson Earp (Navarro College) and Joe Minden (Stephen F. Austin) were basically even in the Cardinals' recent spring game, and high school signee Brett Cox will join the mix in August.

Howard's Greg McGhee is off to the CFL after a superb career in which he set the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's all-time record for total offense. The position is wide open after Jamie Cunningham was the only other QB to throw a pass last season (and, yes, it was just one).

In the other FCS conference for historically black colleges, Prairie View A&M must replace standout Jerry Lovelocke, but redshirt senior De'Auntre Smiley played extensively in 2012 and '13 before missing last season, and Trey Green returns after being last year's backup.